Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Land of Inequality

Once more SOYMB reveals the stark statistics of American inequalitybut the rest of the world suffer the same inequality. Half the world’s poorest people live within the G20. Inequality has increased in 14 of the 18 G20 countries since 1990 according to a recent Oxfam report, explaining “Contrary to popular myth, a rising economic tide does not necessarily lift all boats and can in fact sink some of them.”

Since 1980 the top 1 percent has increased its share of the national income by an astounding $1.1 trillion. Today 300,000 very rich Americans enjoy almost as much income as 150 million.

Since 1980, the income of the bottom 90 percent of Americans has increased a meager $303 or 1 percent. The top 1 percent's income has more than doubled, increasing by about $500,000. And the really, really rich, the top 10th of 1 percent, made out, dare we say it, like bandits, quadrupling their income to $22 million.

Meanwhile a full-time worker's wage was 11 percent lower in 2004 than in 1973, adjusting for inflation even though their productivity increased by 78 percent. Productivity gains swelled corporate profits, which reached an all time high in 2010. And that in turn fueled an unprecedented inequality within the workplace itself. In 2010, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, the average CEO in large companies earned 325 times more than the average worker.

Princeton University professor Cornel West declared that Americans need to start a “revolution” on the scale of the American Revolution and the fight against slavery in the Civil War in order to combat economic inequality. “In American history, we have had two revolutions. We need three”
At the same public meeting Richard D. Wolff, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, urged members of the working class to realize that “There has to be a voice that rises and says that the condition is not the issue, but the issue of the capitalist system,”

Many argue that inequality doesn't matter because in America ambition and hard work can make a pauper a millionaire - it is called the American Dream.
This is folklore. A worker's initial position in the income distribution is highly predictive of how much he or she earns later in the career. And as the Brookings Institution reports "there is growing evidence of less intergenerational economic mobility in the United States than in many other rich industrialised countries."
The bitter fact is that it is harder for a poor person in America to become rich than in virtually any other industrialised country.

On the eve of Burns Night SOYMB recalls it was John Steinbeck who took inspiration from Robert Burns' line in one of his poems;
“grief an’ pain for promised joy” , then entitling his story "Of Mice and Men", describing the hardships of two 30s migrant workers in search of their American Dream

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